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EDITORIAL - Mollycoddling Ja's Ponzi schemers?

Published:Monday | June 18, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Allen Stanford, the American who operated from the Eastern Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda, used to run a complex financial empire that stretched from the United States (US) to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Thousands of investors from across the world put billions of dollars into his Stanford International Bank in exchange for what they thought were safe certificates of deposit that paid interest rates substantially higher than what obtained elsewhere in the market.

In March, a United States court found Stanford guilty of running a Ponzi scheme that bilked his investors of US$57 billion. Last week, he was sentenced to 110 years in prison.

It took three years from the time of Stanford's arrest in June 2009, through his trial and sentence, including lengthy delays because of his poor health. The time was even shorter between the arrest and jailing of another big Ponzi schemer, Bernie Madoff.

JAMAICA'S PROSECUTORIAL FAILURE

In relative terms, the fraud perpetrated by David Smith/Olint would, we expect, have been as big as Stanford's, or even Madoff's. Smith's operation began to unravel even before the other men's and well ahead of the global financial crisis of 2008 that brought Madoff's and Stanford's to light. Indeed, Smith moved his operation offshore in 2007 in the face of investigation and civil litigation by Jamaican regulators.

Surprisingly, David Smith faced no criminal charges in Jamaica. He was convicted after pleading guilty to fraud in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and then made a plea-bargain deal with US prosecutors. He is serving a prison term in the US.

We have heard the explanations of an absence of, or limited, victims' complaints against David Smith. It nonetheless baffles this newspaper that the Jamaican authorities could find no criminal charge to bring against Smith/Olint, or the perpetrators of any of their offshoots or feeder schemes.

In Smith's case, it may be argued that outsourcing his prosecution has accomplished a level of justice that might otherwise not have been achieved. In Jamaica's cosy environment, too much might have been revealed.

CASH PLUS CASE DELAY

We hope that is not the circumstance in the one case of alleged Ponzi-type fraud that Jamaica decided to prosecute.

It is more than three years since the arrest of Carlos Hill, the founder and CEO of Cash Plus, another of the schemes that offered outlandish returns to investors. There are clients' complaints against Hill/Cash Plus. Insiders' tips led to its wind-up.

But the criminal case has meandered. Few persons are willing to bet that it will get under way this year. The most cynical expect that it will just wither away.

The police and prosecutors need to give the public assurance to the contrary.

Further, it is urgent that Mr Hugh Wildman, the trustee in bankruptcy for Cash Plus, produce an up-to-date report on his stewardship, including providing to stakeholders specific information of all assets identified, what is recoverable, and all costs associated therewith.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.